Perturbed by the idea of having to shift out of Kathputli Colony, Dilip Bhatt — the Swaraj India candidate from ward 102 in Patel Nagar — took it upon himself the task of ensuring that no one has to move from the area. “We asked him to become our candidate after our prayers to ensure that we don’t have to move elsewhere fell on deaf ears,” said Madanlal Prajapati, chairman of the local prajapati samaj. “We had requested the AAP, the BJP, the Congress — to no avail,” he said.
Kathputli Colony is famous for being home to street performers and artisans. It is scheduled to be bulldozed by the DDA as part of its Delhi Master Plan 2021 and multi-storied buildings are to come up in its place. “I don’t know what their plan is for us. Sometimes, they say they will give us houses in Narela. Even if they do plan to give us these houses, how will we survive? So many of us are manual labourers who need to be here to find work. What will we do if we are asked to shift to a far off place?” said another resident, insisting that opposition to this plan was the key to getting Bhatt to contest polls.
“I had no money to contest an election. But people in our basti raised money for my campaign. Everyone contributed Rs 50, Rs 100 and even smaller sums,” said Bhatt, who ties pagris at weddings as a day job. “Swaraj India found out about our movement and offered to give a ticket to me, which I agreed to,” he added.
Elaborating on why most people in the colony are supporting him, Laxmi Devi, a folk singer, said, “This is our ghar bachao andolan. We cannot move out, we have lived here all our lives.” “Last December, there was a huge police bandobast in the area, as if we are terrorists. They want to throw us out of this land where we have now lived for over 50 years. We chose Bhatt because we believe he is the only one who can stop that from happening,” said G R Guliar, a 67-year-old resident.